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Modern Irish Literature I: Tradition and Innovation

Class at Faculty of Arts |

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The seminar focuses on the dynamics between tradition and innovation in Irish literature since the ‘revivals’ at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Due attention will be given to the phenomenon of modernism (defined very broadly) as an approach to tradition that often yields innovative results. The course discusses both English-language classics and relatively less known authors in the Irish language, paying attention to the interactions between the two literary cultures. Knowledge of the Irish language is welcome, but not necessary, as the relevant texts will be made available in English translation.


Week 1 (4/10) Introduction, Irish Literary Revival

Week 2 (11/10) Irish Literary Revival

Read: J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World, The Shadow of the Glen

Week 3 (18/10) Gaelic Revival

Read: Pádraic Ó Conaire, Deoraíocht / Exile

Week 4 (25/10) James Joyce & Tradition

Read: James Joyce, “Cyclops,” Ulysses

Week 5 (1/11) Irish-language Autobiographies

Read: Tomás Ó Criomhthain, An tOileánach / The Islander (selection)

Seosamh Mac Grianna, Mo Bhealach Féin / My Own Journey (chapters 1, 2, 12)

Week 6 (8/11) Flann O’Brien’s An Béal Bocht

Read: Flann O’Brien, An Béal Bocht / The Poor Mouth

Week 7 (15/11) Tradition and Innovation in Irish Music

Read: Seán Ó Riada, Our Musical Heritage (selection)

Week 8 (22/11) Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Cré na Cille

Read: Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Cré na Cille / Graveyard Clay (at least the first three interludes)

Week 9 (29/11) Máirtín Ó Cadhain & Samuel Beckett

Read: Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot

Week 10 (6/12) Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

Read: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, “Cuimhne an Uisce” (A Recovered Memory of Water), “An Mhurúch agus Focail Áirithe” (The Mermaid and Certain Words), “Ceist na Teangan” (The Language Question); “Oileán” (Island); “Dubh” (Black)

Week 11 (13/12) Guest lecture

Seán Hewitt: Mysticism, the Occult, and Synge's The Aran Islands

Read: J.M. Synge, The Aran Islands

Week 12 (20/12) Contemporary Approaches

Read: Doireann Ní Ghríofa, A Ghost in the Throat

Week 13 (3/1) On reserve

CREDIT REQUIREMENTS 1. Regular attendance and active participation in debates (based on the assigned reading). A maximum of 2 unexplained absences is allowed. 2. Submission of draft answers to the assigned questions on a week-to-week basis. These may have the form of notes or a short text, the recommended length is about 300 words. Please send them to by 9:00 on the day of the given class. 3. A final essay (2500-3 000 words), submitted by e-mail in MS Word format (or compatible). Deadline for essays: 31 January.

Students wishing to be awarded an additional exam grade (písemná práce) in the course are required to submit, instead of the essay, a graded research paper (min. 4500-5000 words).

Essay topics must be discussed with the instructor in advance.

PLEASE NOTE: Essays must include full bibliographical references and footnotes for all works cited or paraphrased (in accordance with the MLA style – consult “essay guidelines” on the department website). Students are advised not to use internet sources in place of adequately researching texts available in print. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and will result in a fail grade.

Study programmes